I get my news about the U.S. rather slowly. For example, I only just learned of the snowstorm in the Northeast. Much as I would like to gloat and taunt my NYC-dwelling friends about the fact that it never snows here in Chengdu, the reality of the situation is this: I am drinking my coffee hot, the down comforters are on the beds, I am currently wearing two wool sweaters, and although I have not yet put on any thermal underwear, that moment is approaching rapidly. All of this can mean but one thing–winter has arrived–and there is no emoji capable of accurately depicting my feelings on the subject. Continue reading
I tried something new today. I listened to music while walking around. I know. It’s hard to believe I’ve never done this before, but when I’m out and about, I usually like to have all of my senses engaged: the full experience. I often listen to music while riding the subway, but I take out the earbuds when I get off the train. Today, however, I left them in. Continue reading
I suppose this is my personal homage to Langston Hughes’s great poem, “Let America be America Again,” about which I’ve written here before. Perhaps it’s also my personal update to that poem, my own “creative misprision”–to borrow Harold Bloom’s term–through which I’m trying to say where I think we are and where I hope we’re going. Continue reading
One of the blessings of being a parent is that you get to see your favorite childhood films again. In my life, that has most recently meant seeing Mary Poppins many times over. I’ve enjoyed it because it turns out that it’s also a great film for grown-ups. In fact, it has given me the perfect name for a logical fallacy that’s been bothering me for some time. Continue reading
I have wanted to visit Italy for a very long time. Naturally, part of Italy’s attraction is its historical richness, but for me, an even larger part is the food, the scenery, and the culture. Thanks to an ongoing scholarly workshop I’m participating in, I finally got a chance to find out whether the Italian life really is la dolce vita. What I discovered was–as I suppose it always is when you travel–different from what I expected. Continue reading
In his essay, “Why Read the Classics?,” collected in the eponymous volume, Italo Calvino argues that “… it is no use reading the classics out of a sense of duty or respect, we should only read them for love.” He adds, “It is only during unenforced reading that you will come across the book which will become ‘your’ book” (p. 6). I began reading Dante out of curiosity, but then I fell in love with an imaginative vision that dared what few authors have dared–and what no writer today would even consider. Continue reading
There is a tradition among English-language translators of Chinese poetry to translate all Chinese poems as unrhymed free-verse. This tradition goes back at least as far as Ezra Pound–whose “translations” bear little resemblance to their originals–and is very much alive and kicking. So much so that I am borrowing the historian, Nathan Sivin’s, term–“The Great Taboo,”–to describe it.
I saw a man with a beard on the subway today. You don’t often see beards like that. Continue reading
I’m pleased to announce that The Columbia Review has published my essay “Zora Neale Hurston on Being Black in America, Ninety Years Later” on their website (the title has been changed to the one you see in the title of this post). If you have a chance click over there and give them a visit. Thanks!